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November 07, 2019

Notable Jewish Holiday Fetes Ancient Victory

December 20, 2018

     Hanukkah, perhaps the most well-known Jewish holiday, was celebrated from Dec. 2-10 and has more than 2,000 years of history.


     Despite not being the most significant recognition when it comes to religious importance, Hanukkah is still important, explained Daniel Rosenberg, an ex-Rabbi and member of the Beth Jacob Congregation in El Centro.


     “It all boils down to the Maccabees, a group of rebel Jewish warriors who refused to be oppressed by Alexander the Great’s successor, Greek King Antiochus. After the initial Greek conquest over Israel, Alexander the Great had no real problem with the Jewish traditions.”


     However, his eventual successor tried to abolish some Orthodox Jewish traditions, notably the lighting of the menorah  (a nine-branched candelabrum). The rebel Maccabees then began to wage guerilla warfare on the Greek army in response to this demand.   


     “The Maccabees were eventually successful in defeating the Greek army and keeping their sacred tradition. In their attempt to light the menorah at the rededicating of the liberated temple, they found only one flask of acceptable oil to burn,” Rosenberg said.


     He added, “This wouldn’t be enough to light the menorah for the necessary eight days and nights, rather it would’ve only been suitable for a single night of candlelight. They lit the candle anyways and it miraculously stayed lit for the entirety of the eight nights. That’s when the eight-day festival was introduced.”


     Rosenberg spoke while children were socializing and playing at a Beth Jacob Hanukkah event. This seems to have made him bring up some traditions that have been kept alive since ancient times.


     “The children traditionally play with a dreidel, a four-sided top they use to play games in which they usually wager candy, although some people have played for money,” said Rosenberg.


     “We have also adopted the tradition of eating fried foods, such as latkes, which are fried potato pancakes. The use of oil ties into the menorah and the background of the holiday. Definitely not the best time of the year to adopt a diet,” he joked


     The holiday was celebrated by the Beth Jacob Congregation on the evening of Dec. 8 at the residence of another member of the congregation. Present there were most of the active members of the synagogue, along with student Rabbi Noah Westreich from a rabbinical school in Los Angeles. Part of his training is to teach monthly classes at the local synagogue.


     “I think that what we should take away from Hanukkah is that a single flame, that being a single act of kindness, can ward off so much darkness,” Westreich said of the holiday’s significance. “Many Jewish holidays consist of themes of rebirth or renewal, and Hanukkah is no different.”


     Rosenberg said he sought to make clear that, most of all, a big part of the holidays and the faith in general is passing on these values to a new generation.

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